‘Snarcheology’ or ‘Snow Archeology’ is a fun exploration and imagination game for toddlers and young kids eager to do more in the snow than build Olaf or make snow angels. The premise is simple: You bury ‘fossils’ in the snow and then lead your kids on an archeological dig to unearth them. How many other activities for kids also double as Indiana Jones make-believe?
My almost 3-year-old daughter inadvertently invented the game ⏤ or at least introduced it to me ⏤ by accidentally burying one of her snow shovels in our yard and then asking me to help find it. Not only was the shovel completely covered and almost undetectable, and thus took some time to even locate, but when we did, digging it up proved quite a thrill. It felt as if we had uncovered a historic discovery or hidden treasure, when really it was just a yellow plastic toy. Didn’t matter. By the next snowfall, I had taken the game to the next level.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Entertainment Time: 30 minutes
Energy Expended by Child: Moderate
What You Need:
- Snow or sand
- A toy shovel or big serving spoon
- A handful of small, waterproof toys. Dinosaurs, animals, Little People all work well. Bath toys in the shape of dinosaurs, animals, or little people are even better
- Optional: String, a one-to-two-inch paintbrush, sifter, bucket, and Tupperware
- An ability to make believe/suspend disbelief
How to Play:
‘Snarcheology’ is best played in fresh snow, or at least softer snow that’s easy to move and smooth out. Playing while it snows is also fun, as the new powder makes discovering the buried ‘fossils’ more challenging.
Either way, start by designating a small section of the yard as your dig site and bury the toys an inch or so down while your child is still inside. Again, they can be dinosaurs, animals, people, even furniture if you want to pretend to uncover a lost city, just make sure they won’t get ruined and that you smooth the snow out so they’re not easy to find. Mark the location of at least one buried toy, as you’ll need it to start.
With the warmly dressed child in tow (waterproof pants are key here), lead the kid into the yard and begin by explaining that you’re going to build a snow castle or snowman ⏤ something simple but that requires digging. Once they start, dig down to the one marked toy and enthusiastically exclaim that you’ve found something, and that you need their help. Quick, come here! Ask them to help you dig up the dinosaur or prehistoric tiger or 100,000-year-old Farmer Jane and, as you do, get the game/story rolling. You’ve just uncovered some ancient fossils! This is amazing! There must be more in the area, let’s find them all!
From there, it becomes an archeological expedition to locate and dig up all the of the toys, placing them carefully side by side as each is uncovered and cleaned off. If you want to really go all out, rope off the area with string and pull out other tools like a sifter, bucket, and paintbrush to carefully dust off the snow. Each time a new discovery is made, be sure to both get excited and create a backstory ⏤ what its life was like, what it hunted, how long ago it must have lived, etc. If your kid doesn’t feel like imagining their bath alligator as a real fossil, that’s fine too. Just have fun searching for the hidden objects.
In fact, if archeology isn’t your thing, the game works just as well as a straight treasure hunt. Instead of burying a bunch of toys, however, fill a single Tupperware container with ‘treasure’ (could be the same toys) and bury it in the snow. Then, while pretending to be either explorers, pirates, leprechauns, whatever, set out to find the hidden treasure chest in either an easy-to-search area or, if you have time, by providing clues that lead them around the yard. Either way, the goal remains the same. ‘Snarcheology’ is also fun at the beach or in a sandbox when the snow eventually melts.
The beauty of ‘Snarcheology’ is that it not only gets kids active and outside in the winter (no small feat when temps are below freezing), but it also exercises their imaginations and allows them to engage in creative play. Assuming you have the snow, it’s easy to set up, can last as long as you want based on the number of buried snow fossils, and who knows, it may even inspire a child into a career in archeology. Most importantly, it’s just plain fun to uncover hidden stuff, even if it’s only a yellow plastic shovel.